A class-action suit against Meta, Facebook's parent company, was filed on behalf of a large group of Rohingya refugees who blame the social media company for contributing to the genocide violence against the Muslim minority in Myanmar.
The plaintiff, who is not named and labeled "Jane Doe," represents 10,000-plus Rohingya refugees who have resettled in the US over the past decade. They are seeking more than $150 billion in damages. The lawsuit alleges Facebook's algorithm promoted hate speech and helped incite violence against the Muslim minority.
"The last five years, and in fact just the last five months, have made it abundantly clear that Facebook's path to promote the very worst of humanity was not the result of a bug but rather a carefully designed feature," according to the complaint filed in San Mateo County, California.
Lawyers representing the plaintiff said Facebook's debut in Myanmar was "a key inflection point" for Rohingya people.
"Despite Facebook's acknowledgment of its role in such real-world harms and its proclaimed position as a positive force in the world, no meaningful compensation has been offered to any survivor," the lawsuit said.
It even said, "Facebook executives were fully aware that posts ordering hits by the Myanmar government on the minority Muslim Rohingya were spreading wildly on Facebook…, and that…the issue of the Rohingya being targeted on Facebook was well known inside the company for years."
The lawsuit cited knowledge of internal Facebook data from an employee-turned whistleblower: "I, working for Facebook, had been a party to genocide."
Doctors Without Borders estimates 10,000 Rohingyas were killed during a military crackdown in Myanmar in 2017, with more than 700,000 people, or about half the Rohingya population in the country, fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.
"At the core of this Complaint is the realization that Facebook was willing to trade the lives of the Rohingya people for better market penetration in a small country in Southeast Asia," the lawsuit said.
It wasn't until 2018 that Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, and COO Sheryl Sandberg "meekly admitted that Facebook should and could have done more to prevent what the United Nations has called "genocide" and a "human rights catastrophe"" in the country, the lawsuit said.
A similar complaint against the social media company will be filed in the UK early next year.
Readers may recall after Arab Spring a decade ago. There was intense debate over the role social media platforms had on the uprisings.